Ongoing Conservation of the Case Study Houses

One of the many facets to the Case Study House program was the innovative use of materials such as steel, aluminum, stucco, glass, and veneer wood, not to mention flat roofs and sliding doors. The ongoing challenge in the maintenance and conservation of the homes is that each of the materials are aging differently and can sometimes be difficult to replace. The Getty Museum launched  the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative to address these issues as conservationists don’t quite have the answers. Also, how do you keep a mid-century modern home “modern” in 2013 without disrupting the integrity of the architect’s original blueprint?


The best example of how to solve these issues lies in the late 1990’s restoration of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study #21. Filmmaker Dan Cracchiolo purchased the home in 1997 and immediately contacted Koenig to revitalize the home to its original design. Koenig admits that “finding the parts” to rehabilitate his design that cost $20,000 in the fifties – a mere $15 per square foot compared to the $300-400 per square foot it would cost to build today – was no easy feat.

Timothy Sakamoto Case Study 21

Case Study #21 restored. Photo: Timothy Sakamoto 2003  from

The original owners, Dr. Walter Bailey and his wife who commissioned the house in 1957, relocated to the East Coast and sold the property in 1969. The owners that followed over the next three decades made random updates that disrupted the structural harmony. Skylights were installed, wide-gout ceramic tiles replaced the original white-vinyl tiled floors, a cooking island was lodged into the kitchen- a matter of taste updates to any other house, but a total disaster to a mid-century modern masterpiece.

arnout fonck

Case Study #21 restored. photo: Arnout Fonck 2007

Modernizing the kitchen appliances, the water heater, furnace, and lighting throughout the house had to be carefully thought out. This proved a challenge for Pierre Koenig, the architect himself! But Koenig was able to update and restore the home at the same time- a true luxury for the architect and client. The restoration “case” of Case Study #21 was one of luck since the original architect was still alive. But it also aided to clue in the new owners of the homes and conservationists that a pragmatic approach is in line with the original intent of the Case Study program.

Julius Shulman

Case Study #21 restored. Photo: Julius Shulman, Juergen Nogai 2006

Luckily, since the restoration the owners of Case Study #21 have been on board with maintaining Koenig’s integrity and honoring the legacy of the Case Study House program. The latest owners are Korean art dealers pictured below to the furthest right.

case study 21 owners

September 19th, 2013|0 Comments

Genesis of the Case Study House Program

The official announcement for the Case Study House Program ran in the January 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture. Editor John Entenza and his staff were concerned with post-war residential housing as discussions in architecture circles about the subject ranged from profound to whimsical. Entenza and his enthusiastic staff took matters into their own hands and decided to commission residential “case studies” to address the fact that many people would be buying new homes after five years of war, rationing, and scaled-back living.


Cover of Arts and Architecture January 1945. Source:

With the intent to move the problem of post war housing from theory to practice, Arts & Architecture commissioned the best architects of the day to design and build prototypes. The original architects selected to build the eight homes included Ralph Rapson, John Rex, Richard Neutra, Charles Eames, J.R. Davidson, Whitney Smith, Thornton Abell, William Wurster and Sumner Spaulding (with John Rex).


John Entenza. Source:

The plan was to construct eight case study homes and feature one house per month starting with the following February 1945 issue. The location would be limited to Southern California where there would be consistency in dealing with an area’s special living conditions and problems. It was also important that the houses could easily be duplicated, use the best materials to arrive at sensible solutions, and make the homes affordable for the average American. The very first case study home was designed by J. R. Davidson with the drawings and models featured in the February 1945 magazine.

case study #1

Drawing for Case Study #1. Source:

As it turned out, building eight houses in eight months for eight issues of a magazine was a bit ambitious. The February 1945 issue took some liberty and elaborated on environmental considerations for the homes.



feb a&a

Cover of Arts and Architecture February 1945. Source:

Arts and Architecture was finally able to showcase a built case study home in the July 1946 publication. The home was know as Case Study #11 by J. R. Davidson.

case study 11


cs 11


Despite the stated integrity of the program, many of the architects constructed very high-end homes in Bel Air and Brentwood that were way beyond the means of the average American. So what started out as an honest attempt to develop well-designed post-war housing for the masses, actually evolved into a high-end body of work. It’s worth reading the original announcement for the Case Study House program on, not only for historical context, but to capture John Entenza’s spirit that established him as a pivotal figure in the California modernism movement.

September 5th, 2013|0 Comments

Exploring the Residential Swimming Pool, a California Dream Come True

I’ve been reading The Springboard in the Pond: An Intimate History of the Swimming Pool and digesting the impact California culture had on pioneering the swimming pool as a normal addition to private residences. This “new normal” flourished during the building of mid-century homes after World War II and quickly became part of many architects designs, spawning a new industry of pool construction companies.

Initiated by the wealthy as an extravagant add-on to their estates, the trend expanded beyond a status symbol to a practical component of relaxation and fun in a middle-class dwelling. But truly, it all started with William Randolf Hearst’s construction of his European-style Neptune pool at the Hearst Castle. The Neptune pool was constructed between 1924-1936. The lavish pool created a precedent of California luxury and excess that Hollywood quickly embraced, setting the ball rolling for the establishment of the California pool culture.



Upon seeing the films of such directors as Busby Berkeley, which showcased the beauty and fantasy worlds a pool could induce, America became mesmerized with swimming pools. Berkeley’s films seized on the Hollywood spending spree for huge productions and directed a series of musicals which included pool scenes of gorgeous synchronized swimmers. The costs for such pool scenes were beyond excessive and will probably never be seen again in Hollywood. Below is a scene from the 1933 film “By a Waterfall”.



Now thoroughly indoctrinated through the exciting Hollywood films that glamorized pools, California became a haven for the “free-form” pool craze. The perfect climate and booming economy fueled this movement as well. Inspired by the mobiles of artist Alexander Calder, the “blobs” dominating Joan Miró’s paintings, and even the camouflage patterns from World War II, pools were designed to merge with nature and feel organic to the residences where they were built. Below is the “Hepatica-Leaf” pool Philip Ilsley built in 1949.

Philip Ilsley pool copy

Philip Ilsley estate, Hollywood, Saturday Evening Post 1951.

Architect Albert Frey designed the Raymond Lowey house in Palm Springs, built in 1946-47, with the idea of creating outdoor living. Frey’s pool flowed inside the home where glass doors would slide open to achieve the indoor/outdoor living paradigm.





Below is Richard Neutra’s Singelton House where his philosophy of biorealism is fully realized. Neutra defined biorealism as “the inherent and inseparable relationship between man and nature”.

neutra singleton


Richard Neutra also designed the The Kaufman residence in Palm Springs, which was completed in 1946. Interestingly enough, the Kaufmans we are talking about is the same family that commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to create their Fallingwater home in Pennsylvania which I wrote about a few years ago for the Modernica blog.


Photograph by David Glomb.


The Kaufman residence, Palm Springs Photo by Julius Shulman.

Described as a “technovisionary” and expressionist, John Lautner fully embodied the California spirit with his 1963 Sheats house in Beverly Hills. Built for the Sheats family who had five children, the couple wanted the pool area to have a “camping under the stars” feel. The living room is connected to the pool and there are skylights throughout the home that emit a light that Lautner described as feeling like you are in a forest

shears house

The Sheats House. Source:

And of course, art inspires architecture, and here architecture inspired art. British artist David Hockney did a series of pool paintings set in mid-century modern homes. A Bigger Splash is one of Hockney’s most famous.


A Bigger Splash, 1967; Acrylic on canvas, 242.5 x 243.9 cm (95 1/2 x 96 in)

August 1st, 2013|2 Comments

Juergen Nogai: Julius Shulman’s Impressive Protégé

Most of us are familiar with the iconic image of architect Pierre Koenig’s “Case Study House #22” taken by renown architectural photographer Julius Shulman in 1960.  Shulman enjoyed an especially charmed career as an architectural photographer. With the resurgence of interest in mid-century modernism, Shulman emerged from retirement and began collaborating with German photographer Juergen Nogai in 2000.
Mid-Century Modern House

Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai. Philip Johnson Glass House, National Trust Historic Site, New Canaan, CT (Phillip Joohnson, architect), 2007.

If you saw the 2008 film Visual Acoustics, Nogai is the man working with Shulman on new photographs. More than an assistant, Nogai is often referred to as Shulman’s protégé. During their decade-long collaboration, Shulman and Nogai were published together in many books, magazines, and newspapers while working on an array of public and private projects.

Juergen continues to work as a photographer in Los Angeles, establishing his own legacy while keeping the spirit of Shulman’s genius alive. Nogai is represented by Craig Krull Gallery.

Photograph by Juergen Nokai

Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai. Case Study House #21, LA, CA, 2006.

Juergen Nokai

Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai. Private residence in Pasadena (Frank Dimster, Architect), 2003.

photo by  Nokai

Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai. Griffith Park Observatory, LA, CA, 2007.

Juergen photographs mid-century houses

Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai. Killingsworth House, #15, 2008.

Photograph by Nokai

Julius Shulman & Juergen Nogai. Furman House, 2008.

May 9th, 2013|0 Comments

It’s Friday, Time for Some Inspiration… Whether You Are Coming or Going this Weekend, Think Grand Entrances or Even Better Grand Exits

Vintage Ad for the Frank Bros store in Long Beach, California


Facts about the photo above: Shown above is the Case Study House #25. Designed by Killingsworth, Brady, Smith & Associates. This house was built in 1962 for Edward Frank and is located in Long Beach, California. Edward Frank at the time owned a prestigious furniture store and interior design company called Frank Bros. Frank Bros. was among the first Southern California retailers to feature contemporary Scandinavian furniture as well as designs by such architects as Charles and Ray Eames and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In addition to building Mr. Frank’s home, Edward Killingsworth remodeled the Frank’s Bros store in 1961. Photo taken by Julius Shulman, 1962.

October 21st, 2011|1 Comment